Open Access Research article

Mapping of QTL affecting incidence of blood and meat inclusions in egg layers

Mervi Honkatukia1*, Maria Tuiskula-Haavisto1, Virpi Ahola12, Pekka Uimari1, Matthias Schmutz3, Rudolf Preisinger3, David Cavero3, Pia Vennerström4, Jesus Arango5, Neil O'Sullivan5, Janet Fulton5 and Johanna Vilkki1

Author Affiliations

1 Biotechnology and Food Research, MTT, Jokioinen, 31600, Finland

2 Department of Biosciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, 00014, Finland

3 Lohmann Tierzucht GmbH, Cuxhaven, 27472, Germany

4 Research Department, Fish and Wildlife Health, EVIRA, Mustialankatu 3, Helsinki, 00790, Finland

5 Hy-Line International, P.O. Box 310, Dallas Center, IA 50063, USA

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BMC Genetics 2011, 12:55  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-12-55

Published: 13 June 2011



Occurrence of blood and meat inclusions is an internal egg quality defect. Mass candling reveals most of the spots, but because brown eggshell hampers selection in brown chicken lines it has not been possible to eliminate the defect by selection. Estimated frequency of blood and meat inclusions in brown layers is about 18% whereas it is 0.5% in white egg layers. Several factors are known to increase the incidence of this fault: genetic background, low level of vitamin A and/or D, stress or infections, for instance. To study the genetic background of the defect, a mapping population of 1599 F2 hens from a cross of White Rock and Rhode Island Red lines was set up.


Our histopathological analyses show that blood spots consist of mainly erythrocytes and that meat spots are accumulations of necrotic material. Linkage analysis of 27 chromosomes with 162 microsatellite markers revealed one significant quantitative trait locus (QTL) affecting blood spot and meat spot frequency. We sequenced a fragment of a candidate gene within the region, ZO-2, coding for a tight junction protein. Nine polymorphisms were detected and two of them were included in fine-mapping and association analysis. Fine-mapping defined the QTL result. To further verify the QTL, association analyses were carried out in two independent commercial breeding lines with the marker MCW241 and surrounding SNPs. Association was found mainly in a 0.8 Mb-wide chromosomal area on GGAZ.


There was good agreement between the location of the QTL region on chromosome Z and the association results in the commercial breeds analyzed. Variations found in tight junction protein ZO-2 and microRNA gga-mir-1556 may predispose egg layers to blood and meat spot defects. This paper describes the first results of detailed QTL analyses of the blood and meat spots trait(s) in chickens.